Sources said that once the acquisition is finalized early next year, the company will tightly stitch the Ximian Desktop with an enhanced version of SuSE 9.0, which would enable smooth connections to Novell’s GroupWise collaboration server, ZENworks resource manager, and security and integration products. The company also claimed that it will more than double the number of engineers working on the Ximian Desktop and will focus on improving the Gnome desktop environment, the OpenOffice suite, and Mozilla browser.
“The best way to compete on the [Linux] desktop is to offer an end-to-end architecture that works across handhelds, desktops, and servers,” said Dana Gardner, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group.
Furthermore, the confluence of Linux vendors’ efforts may prove to be well-timed. While Microsoft’s much-heralded next-generation Windows, code-named Longhorn, is not expected to hit corporate desktops until late 2005, the time is ripe for desktop Linux to blossom.
“Given Longhorn’s time line and some of the traction we are seeing for Linux
on desktops, the [Linux vendors] have a good shot at getting more firmly planted there,” said Stephen O’Grady, senior analyst at RedMonk.
Underscoring that, IDC expects that by early 2004 Linux will take the No. 2 spot behind Microsoft in the desktop fray.
“We have projected that Linux will be a mainstream platform by 2005 on servers, but we are also thinking that desktop acceptance will only trail slightly behind [servers] in that timeframe,” said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of IDC’s system software research.
But the nagging lack of applications for desktop Linux, notably Microsoft Office, still hangs in the air. Many users would like to switch, but the applications, particularly in vertical areas, are not available.
“Because of the nature of our business, which is oil and gas, we’re at the mercy of what is available on
the desktop, and those applications are all on Windows,” said Brian Baldwin, manager of IS at Enerplus Resources Fund.
Baldwin added that as the programs Enerplus needs, such as geographic information systems-based and reservoir management software, are moved to Linux, the open source platform could be more practicable.
“We’re looking for value on the desktop, so if there is a compelling reason to use something [other than Windows], we’d look at it,” Baldwin said.